You may have read about a newly published study that found that walking increases your creative thinking. The Stanford study experimentally demonstrated that walking (outdoors or on an indoor treadmill) can improve creative thinking in ways that sitting does not [for details see http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/30/want-to-be-more-creative...
or for the original article see http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/april/walking-vs-sitting-042414.html]. The lead author (Marily Oppezzo) is one of my former star undergraduate students who now has returned to Santa Clara University as a lecturer and a postdoc in my lab continuing her exercise research. Her study, which was her doctoral dissertation at Stanford, provides further highly compelling evidence for the cognitive benefits of aerobic exercise and walking in particular. This is important for several reasons.
First, while many people may not be athletic enough to play competitive sports throughout their lives just about everyone without significant disabilities can walk. So, walking is accessible to the vast majority of the population in ways that tennis, swimming, biking, football, basketball, and so forth is not. Walking can have enormous benefits in multiple ways.
Second, previous research has clearly demonstrated that aerobic exercise, such as walking, enhances physical health (e.g., improving cardiovascular fitness, muscle tone, cognitive functioning, and burns calories) as well as improves mental health too (e.g., lowers anxiety, depression, and enhances mood and self-esteem). Thus, you get a lot of “bang for your buck” with walking in terms of both physical and mental health benefits.
Third, walking is pretty easy to do and is fun. You don’t need any special equipment except for comfortable shoes and you can do it mostly anywhere and at any time.
Implications of this research suggest that taking a walk to assist with creative thinking might be a good idea. Many people can walk during meetings or walk when they are trying to come up with a thoughtful and creative solution to a set of problems. This could be one of very few examples where multi-tasking is actually good for you.
The study offers another link in the long chain that underscores the many benefits of exercise including simple and easy to do activities like walking. So, what are you waiting for? Go take a walk!
What do you think? Whatever you think you might think better after a walk.
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Copyright 2014, Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP